The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

No. 1332

Sir: I have the honor to report the creation on May 10, 1935, of two new advisory bodies of the Japanese government, both subsidiary to the cabinet, designated respectively as the Naikaku Shingi Kai and the Naikaku Chosa Kyoku. Naikaku Shingi Kai is translated literally as “cabinet deliberative body” and is rendered in the English language newspapers by a number of titles including “national policy council”, “cabinet advisory board”, and “cabinet inquiry council”; usage has not yet become uniform. Naikaku Chosa Kyoku is translated “cabinet investigation bureau”.

The Cabinet Deliberative Body (Naikaku Shingi Kai) was established by Japanese imperial ordinance number 118 of May 10, 1935, published in the official gazette on the following day. The ordinance states that the body shall be under the direction of the cabinet, and shall investigate and deliberate upon such important policies as may be referred to it by the cabinet. The premier is president, the Emperor designates a cabinet minister as vice president, and the other members (who shall be not more than fifteen) are also appointed by the Emperor. The premier is given authority to determine rules for the submission of questions to the body. The final article of the ordinance states that the general affairs (shomu) of the Cabinet Deliberative Body shall be managed by the Cabinet Investigation Bureau. This article leaves much to be desired in definiteness of meaning. The word shomu is the same word which is used in the title of various general affairs bureaus of departments of the “Manchukuo” government, where the experience of the last few years has been that these bureaus are the powerful policy-determining organs of the departments to which they are nominally subordinate.

The official gazette for May 13, 1935, announced the appointment of the finance minister, Mr. Takahashi, to the position of vice president of the Cabinet Deliberative Body, and named fifteen other men as its members. These are Viscount Admiral Saito, former premier; Takio Izawa, formerly governor general of Taiwan, Eiichi Baba, former president of the legislative bureau, Viscount Nobumitsu Aoki, and Baron Nagatoshi Kuroda, all four members of the house of peers; Seihin Ikeda, managing director of the Mitsui interests; Kenkichi Kagami, president of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha and member of the house of peers, who is associated with the Mitsubishi interests; four Minseito members in the persons of Baron Tatsuo Yamamoto, former cabinet minister, Takukichi Kawasaki, member of the house of peers, [Page 859] formerly chief cabinet secretary and president of the legislative bureau, Keikichi Tanomogi, former parliamentary vice minister of communications, and Kojiro Tomita, member of the lower house; Kenzo Adachi of the Kokumin Domei party; and three Seiyukai men who have lost their party membership by reason of serving under the present administration contrary to Seiyukai orders: Rentaro Mizuno, former cabinet member, Keisuke Mochizuki, also a former cabinet member, and Kiyoshi Akita, former speaker of the lower house and parliamentary vice minister of communications.

At the present time, then, the Cabinet Deliberative Body, under the leadership of the premier and the finance minister, consists of the former premier, four distinguished peers, one representative each for the two largest business interests, four leaders of the Minseito party the leader of the smaller Kokumin Domei party, and three politically experienced men whose cooperativeness with the government has cost them their membership in the Seiyukai party. The appointees are of cabinet caliber. Experience in politics is their common qualification, and political considerations appear to have stood high in determining their choice. The body stands as a sort of board of directors for the government. Neither the army or the navy is represented.

The Cabinet Deliberative Body held its first meeting on May 17, 1935. The session was given over to matters of organization. Cabinet members were in attendance, as is their privilege under the ordinance creating the body. A regular monthly meeting was decided upon.

Meantime the Cabinet Investigation Bureau has progressed more slowly. Established by imperial ordinance number 119 of May 10, 1935 (published in the official gazette of May 11), its work is defined as the investigation of important policies, the study of proposed governmental actions as directed by the premier, and the general affairs (shomu) of the Cabinet Deliberative Body. Its most important power is the authority to call upon any department of the government for any information required. The bureau is stated to be under the premier’s direction and to comprise a director, a secretary, an assistant secretary, fifteen investigators, and twenty low-rank members. The bureau is to maintain a standing executive committee and also a standing committee of experts. The normal term of service is two years. Shigeru Yoshida resigned from his position as chief secretary of the cabinet to accept appointment as director of the Cabinet Investigation Bureau (official gazette, May 13, 1935). The official gazette for May 27 announced the following appointments as investigators: Tatsuo Yamada and Hideo Matsukuma (finance department), Yasuya Kohama and Hiroo Wada (department of agriculture and forestry), Kuninosuke Fujita (industry rationalization bureau), Issei Iinuma (governor of Saitama prefecture), Keinosuke Nakamura and Shigeyuki Tanaka (home affairs department), Gembei Uchida (National resources [Page 860] bureau), Kiwao Okumura (communications department), ShinHashii (department of commerce and industry), Mikine Kuwabara (Tohoku rehabilitation bureau), Colonel Sadaichi Suzuki (army), and Captain Kisuke Abe (navy). Several features of these appointments should be noted. First, the men named have been chosen more for their qualifications as specialists than for their rank. Second, they are taken from government circles rather than from the outside, and to that extent the bureau is an organ of the bureaucracy. Third, the army and navy are represented, but by officers of relatively low rank.

The ordinance setting up the Cabinet Investigation Bureau mentions that its composition shall include also twenty low-rank members. The appointment of these members has not yet been announced, nor are the choices of particular importance. As defined by the civil service regulations of Japan, these members can be expected to be persons of annual salary of fifteen hundred to two thousand yen whose service will be in assisting the researches of the investigators. The bureau, in fact, is so organized that the investigators have ample assistance to make their work really effective. A first formal meeting was held on May 30 but no business was done.

The tendency so conspicuous in recent years for states to develop nationalistically and for their governments to superimpose new agencies of national planning to meet the urgent need of coordination has blossomed in Japan in the Cabinet Deliberative Body and the Cabinet Investigation Bureau. Both advise the cabinet. The deliberative body is a political board of directors whose advice on national policy is valued. The investigation bureau is a commission of experts, organized for active research in technical matters growing out of national policy. National planning is its field.

Influences other than the necessity of nationally planned coordination in economic activities have contributed to the present innovation in Japan. Public dissatisfaction with the manner in which the political parties have operated is well known, and this has had its effect in bringing the new organs into existence. At the time of the promulgation of the constitution in 1889 Japan was not ready for representative government in reality, and a sense that extra-constitutional institutions must be looked to for guidance has never since completely disappeared, although there could be no reasonable hope of duplicating the remarkable group of elder statesmen of the Meiji period. Particularly since 1931 the prestige of the political parties has suffered. Partly because of their notoriously bad record, partly because of military pressure against them, and partly because of the ingrained distrust of representative government as an alien thing, the political parties have been losing such popular faith as they previously had possessed. The Okada cabinet, it will be recalled, is not a cabinet of the majority party of the lower house. Of the 466 seats of the lower [Page 861] house, the Seiyukai at the present time holds 257 but has not been given an opportunity to form the government, and because of this treatment it has not permitted its members to accept cabinet positions. Several Seiyukai men who did so were read out of the party.

It is difficult to see how the Seiyukai could be complaisant. The party’s vision is no doubt accurate when it sees danger in the new bodies. Whether the Minseito, which is lending its support, will later regret its action remains for the future to answer.

The army and navy have meantime stepped cautiously. As enemies of the parties they are in principle favorably inclined to non-party governmental bodies, but at the same time both the army and the navy would probably prefer to rely directly on their privileged position under the constitution than on these new institutions. The fact that the army and navy are represented in the investigation bureau and not in the deliberative body suggests that they desire to be directly informed regarding all the technical research connected with national planning but do not wish to be committed by the decisions of the new organ of political advisers as they would be by implication if participating in both. They are by nature suspicious of politics and unsure of their ability to cope with politicians on the politicians’ ground. The army and navy appear to be willing to work with the experts but not with the politicians.

Many questions about the Cabinet Deliberative Body and the Cabinet Investigation Bureau can be answered only with the passage of time. Starting with a very real need for coordinating the work of the various departments, for which the cabinet was deemed inadequate, the government has launched two new bodies and is feeling out the way for them. They have been created simply by the Emperor’s ordinance power, presumably in accordance with an article of the constitution which states that the Emperor determines the organization of the different branches of the administration. Not contemplated in the constitution, these important organs have been established at a time when their operation can be expected to have serious effect upon the development of political parties in Japan. On the other hand, they could be as simply terminated when the need for their existence is considered to be past. It is doubtful whether the government itself has a clear idea of the future of these bodies, and it is probable that their future will depend upon the degree of their success. Public statements of officials and others, the uncertainty of the press, conversational remarks to members of the Embassy staff—all confirm the impression that the functions of the two new organs remain to be worked out in practice.58

Respectfully yours,

Joseph C. Grew
  1. In despatch No. 1816, May 11, 1936, the Ambassador reported an Imperial ordinance abolishing the Naikaku Shingi Kai (894.00/649).